The 2015-2016 school year has seen WVU Physics and Astronomy Associate Professor Paul Cassak and his students obtain recognition from WVU and beyond through a number of awards.
In 2015, Cassak was awarded a prestigious James B. Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for “significant contributions to the geophysical sciences by an outstanding early career scientist.” It is the premier recognition worldwide for early career scientists in geophysics. He was cited for his theoretical and computational research on magnetic reconnection, a plasma physics phenomenon that plays a crucial role in space weather. Cassak received his medal at a black-tie event in December, 2015, at the Fall AGU meeting. As part of the recognition, he was conferred as a Fellow of the AGU. It is believed that this is the first time someone from WVU has been selected in the 64-year history of the medal.
In April of 2016, Cassak was selected as the Joginder and Charlotte Nath Outstanding Teacher for the West Virginia University Honors College. This honor was based on a nomination from a student in his introductory physics class. Cassak said, “Knowing that this recognition was the result of a student nomination makes this even more of an honor. Working with WVU’s Honors students has been nothing but a pleasure. I thank the Naths and the Honors College for their efforts in making WVU great for faculty and students.”
It was also a banner year for Dr. Colin Komar, who was a graduate student in Cassak’s research group from 2009 until his graduation in Fall 2015. Komar was named the 2016 recipient of the Basu United States Early Career Award for Research Excellence in Sun-Earth Systems Science, an award given by the Space Physics and Aeronomy section of the American Geophysical Union. The award is given “for significant work that shows the focus and promise of making outstanding contributions to research in Sun-Earth systems science that further the understanding of both plasma physical processes and their applications for the benefit of society.” Komar is continuing his research career as a Postdoctoral Scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Finally, Mr. Christopher Doss, an undergraduate in Cassak’s group until Spring of 2016, was also recognized this year. He was named a Finalist for the 2016 Leroy Apker Award given annually by the American Physical Society. The award recognizes “outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students, and provides encouragement to young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment.” It is believed that this is the first time in the 38-year history of the Apker award that a WVU student was named finalist. Doss also earned recognition from WVU – he was named as one of 34 Outstanding Seniors in the 2016 graduating class. Doss is now a physics graduate student at University of Colorado, Boulder.